Deal to boost WA lobster supply collapses

Plans by the West Australian government to boost the rock lobster catch have fallen over.
Plans by the West Australian government to boost the rock lobster catch have fallen over.

A controversial plan to boost rock lobster supply in Western Australia has collapsed, and the state government and industry are blaming each other.

The industry reacted angrily in December when the WA government proposed increasing the total catch and taking control of 17 per cent.

When the government backed down in February, proposing a 315 tonne rise instead of 1700 tonnes, with none state controlled, the Western Rock Lobster Council agreed.

But after consulting members, the council abandoned the deal because only 50 per cent supported it, Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly said.

He said the plan would not have reduced lucrative lobster exports, but tripled domestic supply, which could have fed a new international lobster festival, and pleased tourists and locals who currently pay eye-watering prices.

"If the industry is not able to agree on how it is going to be done, then at some point, the process has to come to an end," Mr Kelly told ABC radio.

"It's very disappointing. There might have been some mistakes made by government early on but we thought we had pared this back to the bare minimum."

Western Rock Lobster Council chairman Terry Lissiman said the state government pulled the pin on complicated discussions.

"We were shocked and surprised," Mr Lissiman told the broadcaster.

He said the industry wanted to cooperate but insisted any proposal was carefully thought through, fearing the impact of a sudden supply surge on prices.

The WA Nationals said the minister was "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" and urged Premier Mark McGowan to take over negotiations.

The opposition said the industry had long supported boosting local supply but the state government didn't give it time or support to resolve its concerns.

The Australian Hotels Association said the plan's failure was disappointing for consumers.

Australian Associated Press